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Studying for an Oﬃcer of the Watch certiﬁcate is a challenge for any seafarer, but one recently-graduated cadet had to deal with exceptional pressure in his ﬁnal year – and has now received oﬃcial recognition for his eﬀorts. ANDREW LININGTON reports...
A Nautilus member who successfully battled a life-threatening illness while completing his cadetship has been presented with this year's Maritime & Coastguard Agency MCA Ofﬁcer Trainee of the Year Award.
Matthew Gigg, 27, trained at Warsash School of Maritime Science and Engineering and now works for V.Ships Limited, serving as ﬁrst ofﬁcer on a Newport-based suction dredger.
He was selected for the award by an industry panel of judges, including Nautilus representatives, and received it from Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Tony Radakin during last month's Marine Society & Sea Cadets Annual Court.
MCA chief executive ofﬁcer Sir Alan Massey praised Matthew's 'exceptional commitment to training' and said he had displayed 'grit and determination' in overcoming major illness during the ﬁnal year of his cadetship.
Mr Gigg said he was proud to receive the award. 'I feel humbled and honoured,' he added. 'I didn't know I had been put up for it and I only knew I won it two weeks ago.'
Growing up in Cornwall, he learned to sail at an early age and taught watersports for a while after completing a sports science course in Falmouth. 'I always wanted adventure, and from a young age I loved anything to do with the sea,' he said.
I always wanted adventure, and from a young age I loved anything to do with the sea
'The military was an option, but you don't spend so much time at sea. I had a friend who was doing a cadetship and I found out about the Merchant Navy through him,' he added. 'Going to sea is not everyone's cup of tea, but I was never one to be sitting at a desk all day, and seafaring is so different – the career options are so wide, the time off is an attractive part of the job, and you meet some really interesting people.'
Mr Gigg was sponsored by the Maritime Educational Foundation and he gained seatime with Foreland Shipping and on platform supply vessels in the North Sea. 'I had a really varied cadetship, which was great, and I loved being on PSVs in the North Sea.'
He was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer last May, and completed his studies whilst undergoing surgery and radiotherapy. 'Warsash, my sponsoring company and friends and family were amazing and incredibly supportive,' he said. 'But my cadetship also really helped me through as it gives you something to focus on, and if I had not had that, I think I would have fallen into a dark place.
'Many folks would probably have given up or taken a year out,' Mr Gigg added. 'But there was no way I was going to do that. All I cared about was to graduate and attend the passing out ceremony with my cohort, which, to my delight, I achieved.'